The Talk

The+Talk

Let’s talk.

In June of 2016, I finally had the long-awaited “talk” with my parents. My hands were clammy. I couldn’t look them in the eyes. No one prepares you for “the talk.” Seeing it in the media or hearing about it from your friends kind of makes you wonder if you really need it in the first place.

So I had “the talk” with my parents.

And I would soon realize that among all of my friends, only about three will get the same talk I did. This wasn’t the “birds and the bees” talk. This was the “cops and robbers” talk. Last summer, my parents told me what I needed to do if the police pulled me over.

Now, this isn’t uncommon. I know many parents teach their kids this when they get their license or go to college for good measure. But this talk was different.

My parents sat me down at the dining room table. My dad leaned toward me, paused and asked the question. “Do you know what to do if a cop pulls you over?”

Get to the side of the road, put the car in park, hands on the wheel, and wait, right? I was wrong; there is much more. Get to the side of the road — and use your blinker. Put your car in park — then turn it off completely. Place your hands on ten and two, look straight ahead, and hope.

I’m not at all saying that cops are bad, nor I am going to shove a hashtag down your throat. The Naperville police have been amazing towards me and my family. But watching videos upon videos of innocent people dying, people who followed these exact rules, can shake anyone into silence.

Silence.

That is what I experience when I see people fighting over racial issues. Silence is what comes from the other party, until they get to talk about their opinions. Silence is what I hear anytime a cop car passes me and I pray that if I get pulled over, that this man or woman is a good person. I pray this man or woman will only give me a ticket for what I have done wrong, and I can go back to my family.

But what does this discussion with my parents have to do with you?

I want everyone to recognize the true problem: lack of communication. Yes, people talk and fight about racial issues all day long. In the end there is no real solution because no one is listening. We hear the sound of gunshots on the news, but only talk about the bullet encrusted dress someone wore at the Emmy Awards. We use textbooks to teach us about history, yet we never go in depth on the history our Founding Fathers stole. We say we have a problem and that it should be fixed, yet I still get called “the prettiest black girl” in the school. This happens, but no one has any idea how hurtful it is.

Why do people continue to run away from the conversations our ancestors were too afraid to have?  Shouldn’t the violent videos flooding the news prompt us to take some sort of stand?

This summer, I shaved my hair into a small afro after reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I didn’t agree with everything he believed in. But he put into words things I’ve been feeling my whole life. A weight was lifted off my shoulders as I realized I wasn’t alone in my thoughts on my self-image. Malcolm X “conked,” or chemically straightened his hair, to look like the white people around him. This would be fine if he truly loved what he did to his hair, but he didn’t. He simply hated being the minority next to a majority that was always spoken more highly about.

He lived in a world where white was beautiful and black was not. This was the situation I found myself in. I have changed my hair so many times trying to fit into this mold I had created for myself. I was telling myself I was only pretty for a black girl. I can’t blame white people for this at all- I just assumed my uniqueness was a bad thing. Most people experience that feeling at some point in their lives, and I decided to do something about it.

When I cut off my hair, I cut off the insecurity of not looking like any of the models on T.V. I cut off hateful words and misconceptions. I cut off the burden of having to represent my entire race in every class I attend.

All that was left was me. And I am demanding to be heard.

So no, my coiled kinks do not sway in the wind, nor do the ends of my locks brush my shoulders, and I have a new way of looking at getting pulled over. Let us have a conversation about why I did it. Let us express how we feel. Let us understand each other and let us listen to each other.

Let us talk.

 

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